More than 500,000 still don’t have electricity after monster storm

Derecho Roof
Dangerous straight-line winds and ripped off the roof of a home and twisted grain storage bins near Wakarusa, Ind., Monday. (Associated Press)

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (WKBT) — The powerful, deadly storm that raked the Midwest Monday is long gone, but devastation continues to cripple the region, with more than half a million people still without power Wednesday afternoon.
In Cedar Rapids, where winds were clocked at 112 mph, residents scrambled to cope with the aftermath. They emptied refrigerators and freezers as food began spoiling for lack of electricity; endured long waits at gas stations to fill cans to power chain saws, generators and other equipment, and worked to clean up trees that had been scattered like a game of Pick-up Sticks.
Many roads remained impassable, and businesses still were closed.
“It feels like we got kicked in the teeth pretty good,” said Cedar Rapids City Councilman City Dale Todd.
“Recovery will be methodical and slow. But right now, everybody is working to ensure the critical services are restored,” Todd said.
Complicating rebound efforts in the city of 133,000 is the challenge of communicating with people who have no power, which means they have limited access to internet, TV and phone service, he said.
Cedar Rapids spokesman Greg Buelow said several patients reported to hospitals with chainsaw injuries. Scores of others who are on oxygen tanks and need nebulizer treatments went to hospitals for help, he said. Firefighters responded to two fires Wednesday that were sparked by generators placed too close to homes, he said.
The Cedar Rapids School District was considering pushing back this month’s start date because more than 20 of its buildings suffered roof and other structural damage.
The rare storm known as a derecho killed two people as it plowed through parts of at least seven states — South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio — Monday. It traveled 770 miles in 14 hours.
It crippled much of the power grid, flattened more than 10 million acres of corn and tore off roofs of houses, businesses and school buildings. Tens of millions of bushels of grain that were stored at co-ops and on farms were damaged or destroyed when bins blew away.
The National Weather Service confirmed two tornadoes in southeast Wisconsin and two in northern Indiana.
The storm belched forth seven tornadoes in the Chicago metro area, including an EF-1 tornado that hit the Rogers Park neighborhood on the city’s north side with 110-mph winds before moving onto Lake Michigan as a waterspout, according to the NWS.
That storm, which left damage along a 3-mile path, and was the first tornado of at least EF-1 strength to strike Chicago since May 1983, the weather service said.
The term “derecho” means “straight ahead” in Spanish, which is why it refers to straight-line winds. University of Iowa physics professor Gustavus Hinrichs coined it in reference to the storms in 1888 to distinguish the straight winds from the swirling gusts of tornadoes.